Description of the Science Project Synopsis

 

This outline is mostly used for the screening process, but it is also useful when reading the paper before judging. The synopsis for the science projects consists of six major parts.  Each part is described below:

 

Title

A good title should simply and accurately present the research, and might mention the variables being studied. Some students prefer a “catchy” title, which acts as an attention-grabber for the display.

 

Introduction

The introduction sets the stage for the science project. It introduces the topic to the readers and helps them understand the rationale behind the project. The major points to be included in the introduction are as follows:

  1. A demonstration of a clear understanding of the applicable principles and processes (the science of the experiment). References should be cited.
  2. The rationale: gives the scientific and/or practical reasons for conducting the experiment. To help the reader understand the rationale, it may be necessary to provide some background information on the variables being investigated or describe other studies conducted by scientists.
  3. The purpose: indicates what the researcher hoped to achieve or learn.
  4. The hypothesis: states what the researcher predicted the results would be.  

Experimental Design

The design can be communicated through a chart or list that includes the vital parts of the experiment. These parts include the independent variable, the levels of the independent variable, the dependent variable, the control, the repeated trials, and the constants.

  1. The independent variable is the variable that is intentionally changed in the experiment, such as the temperature of the water in which an effervescent tablet was dissolved.
  2. The levels of the independent variable are the different values of the independent variable, such as using water at 10°, 20°, 30°, 40°, and 50° C. The levels of the independent variable can also be thought of as the experimental groups that are set up.
  3. The dependent variable is the variable that responds to the changes in the independent variable. For example, the time it takes for the tablets to dissolve in the different temperatures of water is the dependent variable.
  4. The control is the standard against which the researcher compares the results from each treatment group (level) in the experiment. For example, the control might be the room temperature water, which is about 20° C. In many cases, there will not be a true control. The researcher would then set one of the groups as the standard and measure the other groups against that standard. For example, in the effectiveness of detergents there can be no control, so the student would pick one brand (usually the best selling brand, or maybe the one used at his/her home), and compare the effectiveness of the different detergents against this standard.
  5. The repeated trials are the number of times the experiment is repeated to determine how the independent variable affected the results. One repeated trial is one complete experiment.   For example, if the researcher tried dissolving the tablet 7 different times in each temperature of water, he/she would have 7 repeated trials. If 10 different plants are used for each treatment, then there are 10 repeated trials.
  6. Constants are the things that are kept the same each time one of the trials in the experiment is repeated.  For example, constants could include the amount of water used, the brand of effervescent tablet used, the type of water used, and the fact that the water was not stirred.  As many outside factors as possible should be kept constant in an experiment so that the researcher can be sure that any changes that occur do so because of the independent variable.

Or:

An appropriate design for atypical experiments such as math, engineering, computer science, case studies, correlations, etc.  

Procedure

The procedure is a brief description of the steps that are followed when conducting the experiment. The report should be detailed enough so that someone would be able to repeat the experiment from the information in the paper, but not overly detailed. We don't need to know what type of pen they used to record data, but it should include all the equipment and materials critical to the project. Students may include detailed photographs or drawings of self-designed equipment in the appendix rather than in the body of the paper. They should make sure they indicate the number of repeated trials conducted and the levels of the independent variable tested.

Analysis of Data

In this section, the researcher discusses how he/she summarized the data from the different trials and displayed the findings. How did the data vary between the repeated trials? How were the results affected by uncontrolled events?

 

Proper presentation of the data allows the readers to see more easily the relative effects of one or more variables. Because statistical literacy is important for all students, screeners and judges will be looking for accurate and appropriate statistics and graphs, charts, etc. Analyses which are appropriate to the grade level, and to the project, are much more important than computer-generated charts and graphs which the students may not understand.

 

Statistics such as mean, median and mode are more appropriate for middle school students. Many 7 th & 8 th graders try to use all 3 even when they're not appropriate for the data. For older or more advanced students, a statistical test can be used to determine if the results are statistically significant. The simplest types of statistical tests are the t-test, for significance of difference between means, and the Chi-Square, for the significance of difference between frequency distributions.

 
Discussion and Conclusion

The data analysis should not be repeated in this section. The sections can be combined, but repetition should be limited. The conclusion summarizes the major findings, compares the findings with other scientific information and discusses the SCIENCE involved in the project and how that affected the results. Also included should be suggestions for improvements and any recommendations for other experiments. The following questions have proven helpful in determining the information to be included in the conclusion (Cothron, Giese, & Rezba, 1993, 1989):

•  What was the purpose of the experiment?
•  What were your major discoveries or findings?
•  How did your findings support your hypothesis?
•  How did your findings compare with other scientific research or information in science books and magazines?
•  How can you explain the results of your experiment using science to support your explanation?
•  How could you improve the experiment or conduct more research in certain areas?

 

Other Criteria

Based upon the research project synopsis, students will also be scored on creativity, appropriateness, and the scientific validity of the experiment. Creativity refers to the originality of the project itself, or of the way the project was conducted. Appropriateness means that the experiment is realistic for the student to conduct given his/her educational level and access to materials and equipment. Scientific validity underlies the entire experiment and addresses how legitimate (valid) the research project is, given what scientists know about the universe.

 

Bibliography

This list includes the sources used to design, conduct, and analyze the results of the experiment. It should consist of at least 5 major sources , such as books, science periodicals, appropriate Internet sites, etc., and should be written using an acceptable format.  Junior Division students generally do not have as much access to journals, nor do many of them have the ability to interpret them in 7th and 8th grade, so some leeway is given.